Duluth MN is home to the furthest inland port in the US, one of two lift bridges in the world, and was voted the #1 outdoor town in the US in 2014 by the Outdoor Magazine, more than that, it is also home to some of the best museums in the midwest.

Quick Overview, We Know You’re Busy

  1. The Marine Museum

7. Split Rock Lighthouse

Split rock lighthouse on cliff with a purple sky

Photo by Johnathon Alonso

Top 10 Duluth Museums

To some people Duluth is considered your mid-size town of 80,000 people, a big lake, and plenty of trees. A well kept secret of Duluth locals is all of the amazing museums in the area. In writing this article it was difficult to only select 10 of the awesome museums in the Duluth area. In the following list you can expect to hear about kids activities, an incredible mansion, plenty of boats, trains, lighthouses, Ojibwe history, and a veteran’s museum.

The Marine Museum

This is a free museum right in the heart of Canal park. Offering a close-up view of the lift bridge, a schedule for when ships come in, a gift shop, and a deep dive into the history of the US Corps of Engineers and the shipping industry in Duluth. Here you can watch ships come into the port, learn about the Soo locks, learn about taconite shipping, and big boats in general. There’s even hands on exhibits letting you operate the locks, and exact replicas of living quarters on ships. This is the perfect spot to take in the air-conditioning and learn more about the ships that make Duluth so famous. Looking for a sneak peak of the view? Head here to check out their live canal camera!

The Duluth Children’s Museum

Located in the Lincoln Park district the Children’s museum is a great spot for families. With over seven exhibits there is something for every kid to love. Some personal favorites in 2020 are the iron ore boat station, the Cirrus airplane station, and the Manoomin exhibit. The ore boat allows kids to climb up the lift bridge, sit on the deck of an ore boat, and learn more about the shipping industry. The hands on Cirrus exhibit is a real prototype of a Cirrus plane. The replica dashboard helps you plan your trip and imagine your flight. Once that is done you can actually build paper airplanes and try to hit a target. The Manoomin exhibit uses interactive components and the Ojibwe language to help kids and parents through the five stages of the sacred wild rice harvest.

The William A. Irvin

The William A. Irvin is a genuine retired great lakes vessel. The flagship of U.S Steel’s Great Lakes fleet, this ship remains in pristine condition even after 40 years of carrying coal and iron ore through the great lakes. This ship sits in the heart of Canal park and is available for tours. At 610 feet long and 60 feet wide this magnificent ship had 2,000 horsepower and went through 2,400 lbs of coal per hour. The anchors alone weigh a combined 22,000 lbs. One of the craziest parts? This ship was retired for being too small. This ship is the once in a lifetime chance to tour a real great lakes vessel and see just how a ship looked in the 1930’s. Disclaimer: The vessel was recently moved for painting and has returned with the hopes to re-open in August 2020.

Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen is a 39-room mansion on the shores of Lake Superior. Built by local billionaires Clara and Chester Congdon, this mansion has been preserved to its near original space to when it was built in 1908. At the time this mansion cost $845,000, adjusted for inflation today that would be $23,721,520. Located on a 22-acre estate this is a house museum and so much more. Inside the mansion you can expect to see rare Numidian marble, a gold ceiling, and many beautiful things the Congdons collected in their travel all-over the world. A walk around the estate will take you through a formal garden with a marble fountain, vegetable gardens, and an amazing rose garden with heirloom roses. Tischer Creek runs right through the estate with a beautiful stone arch bridge crossing the creek. The estate is right on the shores of Lake Superior which allows for a magnificent beach where picnic lunches are encouraged. Glensheen has beauty, intrigue, and adventure for all of its visitors. Glensheen is family-friendly with their addition of the self-guided tour and descriptive app. This tour allows for everyone to tour the mansion at their own pace on their own schedule.

Lake Superior Railroad Museum

The Lake Superior Railroad Museum is every train lover’s dream. One of the most respected railroad museums in the country, this is perfect for the curious visitor or train captivated child. This museum is home to train cars, cabooses, locomotives, and hands-on exhibits. This museum gives you a look into the famous North Shore Scenic Railroad. You can touch and see the steam and electric locomotives along with cool vintage railroad memorabilia. You can even climb into the cab of the huge Mallet #227, and sit in the engineer’s seat.

The Depot

The depot is a multi-generational hotspot. With four organizations under its roof, all for one admission price, there is truly something for everyone. Within the Depot sits the Duluth Art Institute. The Art Institute showcases local and state artists all year-round. They also host various adult and youth classes so be sure to check out their schedule before your visit. The Depot is also home to the St. Louis County Historical Society. This society is home to over nine exhibits ranging from a forest history room, an Ojibwe culture gallery, a woodcarvers collection, a mining exhibit, and much more. The third part of the Depot is the North Shore Scenic Railroad. Here you can see real trains departing Memorial Day through October. The fourth part of the Depot is the Lake Superior Railroad museum we talked about above.

Split Rock Lighthouse

The Split Rock Lighthouse is a 1000-watt lighthouse on the shores of Lake Superior. It was constructed after a storm wrecked 30 ships in 1905. This lighthouse has a visitor center and is in a state park allowing for fun activities for friends, couples and families alike. They offer 20 minute guided tours allowing you to enter the the restored keeper’s house, oil house, and fog signal building. The visitor center also has a free film and more deep-dives into the history surrounding this famous landmark.

The Karpeles Manuscript Museum

The Karpeles manuscript library is the largest private collection of more than one million manuscripts and documents in the US. The collection is spread through 17 different museums. Duluth is the proud home to one of these museums. The free to the public. The Karpeles collection holds more knowledge within its documents than most people experience in a lifetime. Duluth is very lucky to be able to be in the rotation of manuscripts. The exhibits are constantly changing, but past exhibits in the Duluth museum have included Bob Dylan’s handwriting and Samuel Morse’s sketches for the telegram, there is always something new to be seen at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum.

Richard I. Bong Veteran’s Historical Center

Located in Superior Wisconsin, this museum stands as a tribute to the women and men who fought to defend the United States in the 20th century. The museum has exhibits surrounding WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. This museum focuses on stories of local veterans and the sacrifices they made for this country. The Richard I. Bong Veteran’s Historical Center is a great spot to see interactive exhibits, first hand accounts, and hundreds of artifacts from the 20th century.

Tweed Museum of Art

Located within the University of Minnesota Duluth this museum does a great job of showcasing student as well as professional art work. With a permanent collection of over 10,000 art objects representing a range of cultures and periods of art history, the Tweed Museum of Art is a major cultural and educational resource for the Midwest region.

We hope you had a great time learning about the 10 best museums in Duluth. To learn more about what Duluth has to offer you can head here https://glensheen.org/things-to-do-in-duluth/.